The two parts of the plane are fastened
together by three iron rivets, one in front of the slot and two behind
it. The rivets pass through holes drilled in the stock and are hammered
over bronze plates on its top surface. The front plate is square, and
those behind the slot are triangular, with the points facing inwards.
The front right corner of the base-plate is rounded and
burred on the upper surface, showing that the plane had considerable use
before being buried in the grave.
This small and delicately-made plane is clearly a craftsman’s
tool, intended for squaring or bevelling the edges of small pieces of
wood rather than for planing surfaces. The width of the cutting iron
would allow for wood up to ¼ in. thick to be planed. It is, therefore,
suggested that the plane was used in finishing strips of wood that were
fitted accurately together, such as the sides of work-boxes or caskets,
1 and the staves of buckets.
Examples of ancient planes are exceedingly rare, and
according to Flinders Petrie 2 the plane was a Roman
invention. Roman planes are known from Pompeii, Silchester, and the
Rhineland, but these are larger than the Sarre plane and were joiner’s
tools. In fact the Sarre plane appears to be unique for the Anglo-Saxon
period. In lightness of make a closer parallel is provided by the wooden
plane in the third-century hoard from Vimose, on the island of Fyen,
Denmark.3 This is 10 in. long and
with each end turned inwards in the shape of a bird’s head.
Planes closer in construction to the Sarre plane are known
from the terps of Friesland, and belong to the late Roman and to the
late Frankish periods.4 One from Finkum is 6.6 in. long, with
a bronze base-plate and a bone stock, and provides a remarkably exact
parallel to the Sarre plane. Another plane, from Aalsum, is similar in
shape but slightly larger, and is made entirely of wood. These planes,
have a hole through the stock as on the Sarre plane. These parallels in
Holland suggest that small and delicately-made planes, based on Roman
models, were developed in the Teutonic lands at a time when the making
of articles from composite strips of wood was particularly in vogue.
The Sarre plane is in the collection of the Kent
Archaeological Society at Maidstone; grateful thanks are due to the
Curator, Mr. L. R. A. Grove, F.S.A., for permission to publish it here.
2 For the
reconstruction of a Frankish casket see Germania 31
Tools and Weapons (1917), 39.
4 C. Engelhardt, Vimose
Eundet (1869), p. 29, Fig. 31.
5 P J. A. Boeles, Friesland
tot de elfde eeuw (1951), pp. 202,
XXX, 20 and XXXIa, 1.